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Diary of a Ukrainian refugee: ‘I know she’s gone, but I keep looking for our visiting cat’

Ksenia Samotiy (20) and her family fled Lviv in February. She is about to move in with her fourth host family in Dublin


Ksenia Samotiy. Photo by Damien Eagers

Ksenia Samotiy. Photo by Damien Eagers

Ksenia Samotiy. Photo by Damien Eagers

I’m really happy to be back in Ireland after visiting my family in Warsaw. As I said before, it’s weird to use the word ‘home’ to describe Ireland, but it’s beginning to feel that way.

Of course, it was really nice to be around my family for a while. For a second, it almost felt normal. We didn’t do any farewell meals or anything like that. It’s easier to say goodbye when you don’t make too big a deal of it.

I start my new job in Dublin on Monday. My onboarding will take place online but I’ll be in the office some time soon.

I also tried to find a place to rent, a house share. The market is hectic so if you don’t text in the first five minutes of a property hitting the market, you’re unlikely to even get a viewing. I went to three viewings altogether but then, in the middle of my search, I found another host family through the local community centre.

They are really nice people and they’ve got two rescue dogs — one is half cockapoo, half setter and one of them is closer to a setter.

Sadly, we — my current host family and I — had to have a local cat put down this week. Her name was Tweak. She was probably 21 years old, which is older than me, and she spent her whole life as a street cat in the local gardens. I’m just 20 and my life has really thrown me around lately. So I find it a bit of a butterfly effect, that somehow in her last moments I was the one to be with Tweak.

She’s been a great cat; very independent and strong. She never came into the house, but would always sit at the door when she was hungry. Whenever we entered the kitchen we would look at the door if she was there. Now I know she’s not there any more, but I keep doing it.

I have a dog called Frania and a cat called Gaby back in Ukraine. My dad sends me pictures and videos of them every now and then but still, I really miss them.

On the plus side, I find it so easy to make friends in Ireland. People are just so naturally friendly. I can’t really get my head around it. You just try to keep up with them — and then you end up meeting all their family and friends. It’s a totally different culture in Ukraine. People are slightly more closed off there, but here in Ireland, I’m becoming an open person.

I have very practical parents so I try to assess things analytically and I used to do that with people. But in Ireland it’s really hard to do that because everyone is so friendly. Not aggressively friendly like Americans are, just nicely friendly — enough that you take your guard down.

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I wasn’t yet 18 when I left Ukraine to attend university in Poland. I was waiting to turn 18 but then Covid hit and then, a couple of years later, the war started.

I was never really in the university scene, doing all the party things, but I suppose what I’m doing right now in Ireland is kind of similar. I’m not partying but I’m moving around a lot and meeting people and being extremely social. It’s almost like I’m catching up.

In conversation with Katie Byrne

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